Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cruel to be Kind

Back in the 80’s when MTV actually played music videos, Nick Lowe performed his one and only hit song, Cruel to be Kind. This song is based on the old adage that you’ve got to be cruel to be kind. This expression is typically used when you say or do something to a friend or family member, (most often your spouse or significant other), that will usually cause them anger or dismay, but, at least you believe that you did that act in that person’s best interests. We often find that constructive criticism will cause resentment from the person that is subjected to that criticism and that resentment is directed right back at the criticizer. Even though we have the best of intentions when pointing out that particular shortcoming or suggesting that perhaps an alternate approach would be wiser, our helpfulness is often perceived as unwelcome and meddlesome. Truth of the matter is that one would indeed be cruel if we would fail to correct our loved ones, because failing to do so could place them at risk to harm themselves, physically or perhaps spiritually.

As disciples of Christ we are often called to step out of our comfort zones to advance the Kingdom of God. Scripture teaches us how important it is to lead a godly life, endeavoring to achieve some level of righteousness that would be pleasing to our God. Scripture also teaches how critical it is to continue to meet with each other, sharing our prayers and encouraging each other, making certain that we all grow and remain strong in the Spirit. One of those tasks our Lord would have us undertake is correcting our brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone astray, no matter how well intentioned they believe they are. 2 Timothy 4:2-5, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

So many comments from our more enlightened brethren in the progressive ELCA are directed at traditional Christians that uphold the authority of Scripture, chastising them for, what they perceive, as an overemphasis on the Law, while accusing them of failing to properly understand Christian love and unity. Luke 6:41-42, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” We are not called to judge, but to correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. Our brothers and sisters in the ELCA are faced with the ever present doctrine of bound conscience. Bound conscience is used by the leaders of the ELCA to affirm any number of worldly desires and opinions that are at odds with God’s written Word.

This bound conscience allows one to not only question the long held tenets of our faith, but to also disregard those statutes handed down through the words of the Bible. Maintaining the unity of the ELCA takes precedence over maintaining unity in Christ. We are called to be of one mind in matters of our faith, and bound conscience, in and of itself, leads the faithful to themselves instead of to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no unity when we cannot agree on proper Christian doctrine. When one can believe whatever it is that suits them, there is no unity in Christ. When all are called to respect a brother or sisters opinion that is in obvious error, how can we possibly maintain the unity of the body? When the presiding bishop of the ELCA fails to maintain sound doctrine and allows lay people to undermine God’s authority, he betrays his pledge to our Lord.

Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” For many years, Lutheran Core and the Word Alone Network have been in discussion with the leaders of the ELCA in an effort to lead them back to traditional Lutheranism. They have been fought with, marginalized, and flat out ignored, leading to a schism in the church that eventually birthed the LCMC and NALC, safe havens for Lutherans that continue to uphold the authority of Scripture.

It continues to greatly grieve many former ELCA members that the church that they grew up with has left the Lord behind. And it is so troubling that so many of our brothers and sisters that remain fail to understand why so many have left the ELCA. Many who remain steadfast in their support of the ELCA continue casting their anger toward those who have left to walk with a church true to the Gospel. 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Pray that our brothers and sisters that remain in the ELCA choose to dwell in the Word, rather than to simply listen to those who would turn them away from God and toward a closer relationship with the evil one. Continue to pray that the collective plank in their eyes be removed so that they can truly see where the leaders of the ELCA are leading them. It may seem cruel to them that so many brothers and sisters have chosen to leave, but it may be the greatest kindness to lead them away from the wide path of tolerance, acceptance and diversity that the ELCA would have them travel upon.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

You Didn't Build That

When President Obama addressed a crowd in Ohio during his election campaign this fall, he ventured off the teleprompter and spoke from his heart. Driving another wedge into his strategy of promoting class warfare, he admonished those who have been successful in business, stating that “You didn’t build that.” The President further stated that without the help of government provided infrastructure that included teachers, road building, and workers, their success would not have been possible. Obviously, the president truly believes that without government, nothing is possible. Obama’s true ideology was revealed in that moment of candor, exposing his belief that government rules first and foremost. Mitt Romney’s statement that 47% of the United States are beholding to government by virtue of entitlements or employment and would continue to vote to continue their benefits, garnered much negative reporting in the mainstream media. Other than in conservative talk radio, President Obama’s slip of the tongue was widely ignored as he was elected for a second term. While many conservatives were angered by his statements, what the President stated actually IS true. Unfortunately, his reasoning could not be more inaccurate. The concept that we cannot do anything without our Lord and Savior may be foreign to our president, but it is, in fact, true. Those of us who try to go it alone soon discover that without God we only get ourselves into a myriad of predicaments.

John 15:4-5, Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Without our Lord and Savior filling our hearts, without placing our lives under His guidance, and without us giving Him the glory, we are simply nothing. All of our successes, and sometimes even our failures, are truly gifts from God. The God of all creation, who spoke the universe into existence and breathed life into everything that was, is, and is yet to come, deserves all the credit for everything that we can possibly accomplish. For without God’s infinite love of His children, we and the world we live in would not exist. God created everything for us. For us, His children!

The leadership of the ELCA, by invoking their doctrine of bound conscience, continues to lift up, what they call, “new things” that minimize our Lord’s role in their church. “God didn’t literally father Jesus”, “Mary wasn’t really a virgin when she conceived”, and “Jesus wasn’t resurrected in a physical sense.” While these self-proclaimed enlightened scholars attempt to diminish long held Biblical truths, they lift up the things of this world and proclaim, “God’s work, our hands” while their call to bring the world to Christ is largely abandoned. Humankind’s selfish proclivities are celebrated and joyfully proclaimed from the pulpits of ELCA churches and declared as right with God in numerous social statements. While their God is left in the dust, they continue to be obsessed with human sexuality, particularly the crusade to normalize homosexuality, in effect, thumbing their collective noses at God’s commands.

Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” The ELCA has torn down a church built upon a rock and created a misguided religion erected upon the loose sands of heresy. As more and more congregations leave this misguided denomination, it teeters closer and closer to the precipice.

Far too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are fooled into believing that the ELCA is doing God’s work. Yes, many ELCA congregations remain in Christ, but all are at risk of falling into the trap set by the leaders of the ELCA. When Bishop Hanson does his little two step dance, placing the false gospel of radical inclusiveness on equal terms with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, far too many nod their heads in agreement. God did build that and everything that is. Pray that no more are lost to the false gospels promoted by the leadership of the ELCA.